Using Mobile Phones – Overseas

If you decide to take your phone with you overseas you must be aware of a few things so you do not end up with a costly phone bill when you come home.

Before you travel contact your mobile phone company to check whether your account is set up to use overseas.

When you arrive in a foreign country your phone will automatically switch to international roaming (unless you de-activate this with the phone company).  Roaming is when your phone uses another network while still being billed by your existing provider.  When you are roaming on another network your number remains the same and the temporary mobile phone company will bill your usual mobile phone company for calls, voice messages and text you make.  These will be billed at the international call and data rate your company uses, even when receiving a call.  Data usage is a big cause of exorbitant fees when overseas.  Some apps you may have installed on your phone continually run in the background, particularly anything connected to a GPS system, therefore using and incurring data usage fees.

There are several ways you can minimise your spending on calls while away, but still have access to your mobile phone, if needed.

Firstly, and this is the most important one, as soon as you hop on your first international flight, switch your phone to flight mode and turn off “cellular data” in your settings.  This will restrict all data usage unless you’re connected to Wi-Fi.  You can still make and receive phone calls if you wish if this is turned off.  I like to ask people to text me if necessary while I am away as it is cheaper.  For verbal conversations use Skype or Viber.  These work well when there is a strong Wi-Fi signal.

Tip: Turn your phone to “Flight mode” when using these methods to guarantee usage is only via Wi-Fi.

Secondly, you can purchase an International Sim card prior to leaving Australia.  Australia Post always offers good options. The cheapest option generally is to pick up a local Sim on arrival in your foreign country as this will give you access to local rates for all calls, data and text, but you will have a different number.  If you do purchase a local Sim card always check before you go if your phone is unlocked.  Many of the latest phones are now unlocked but it still is worth checking to see if your phone is locked to a network, especially If your mobile phone is on a plan.